3D&AR
November 24, 2022

How augmented reality architecture will transform construction

The construction industry is looking to technology to streamline various processes and increase productivity. Augmented reality architecture is at the forefront of this emerging trend.

Key takeaways: 

  • 55% of professionals in the construction sector believe inefficient processes damage productivity
  • Augmented reality architecture will streamline processes in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors by supplementing BIM software
  • Augmented reality architecture helps users place 3D BIM projections in the real-world, enhances collaboration, improves site safety, inspection and training, and even helps with building maintenance

The construction sector, occupying 13% of the world’s GDP, is the largest industry in the world. But it is also one plagued by inefficiencies. According to a report by Autodesk, 55% of industry professionals stated inefficient processes damaged productivity

Digital technologies can streamline these processes, but the construction sector has been notoriously slow in adopting them. For example, BIM (Building Information Modeling) processes that are known to streamline the creation and management of assets have an adoption rate of only 60-70%.

However, there is a renewed interest in digital technology in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) sector post-COVID. 91% of contractors (general, specialty and property owners) reported their colleagues embracing technology to streamline processes in 2021. Many are already using them to monitor and manage job sites, improve communication, and reduce rebuild costs.

Augmented reality (AR) is one technology that will revolutionize the architecture and construction sector by streamlining tasks, from project planning to facility maintenance.

Why use augmented reality in architecture?

AR allows users to superimpose digital information onto real-world environments using technology. In architecture and construction, that means adding information onto 3D models of buildings and infrastructure, increasing the amount of perceived information.

With AR technology, architects and contractors can tour their project location remotely, get real-time status updates on developments, and collaborate easily with different project stakeholders. This not only streamlines project workflows, but also reduces the instances of miscommunication, both of which boost productivity.

Contractors will recognize that augmented reality architecture solves many problems that BIM software does. So, is it a replacement for BIM software?

Ways in which augmented reality architecture complements BIM software

BIM software has been around for over 35 years, helping architects and contractors conceive, plan and execute projects easily. The software effectively allows its users to;

  • model 3D projections of buildings, including their interiors
  • add documentation
  • collaborate with stakeholders
  • update data and share across the board
  • reduce construction costs through future planning and access to data

Besides, 73% of professionals use BIM software in the UK and 53.4% in Japan. Countries like the US, Mexico, Spain, and others, have government mandates to increase the platform's usage.

While AR, like BIM, can allow users to add information, making collaboration and project planning easier, the similarities between the technologies ends there. So, while augmented reality architecture cannot replace BIM, the technology can complement it.

BIM can produce the 3D projections first, and AR can enrich these with information. For instance, once the 3D model of a building is created, AR can superimpose it onto a real-world environment. Engineers, builders, and architects can view the structure from different perspectives and spot potential flaws.

Moreover, AR helps integrate project data better, improving collaboration between various teams. Suppose builders are actively working on one area of the building, but the architect wants to run a quick check. AR integrates information from the projection in real-time with the physical world.

Thus, when combined with BIM, AR helps;

  • understand spatial relationships between structures
  • locate construction or other errors
  • make decisions quickly

Recently, infrastructure engineering solutions provider Bentley partnered with AR company Nearabl to improve project visualization.

Nearabl joins the growing ecosystem of software developers enabling digital twin solutions with the Bentley iTwin platform. Nearabl is a great example of how BIM and augmented reality (AR) can be combined and visualized in a mobile app to improve the safety and productivity of construction teams. _  iTwin’s Sheena Gaynes

9 more ways AR is used in architecture, engineering and construction

  • Project planning: AR helps stakeholders understand the working of architectural compositions. Anyone can use AR to pivot 3D architectural projections, or pick them apart by layers. Some AR apps even allow users to alter material textures, characteristics, and more, to make visualization easier.
  • Real-time collaboration:  Augmented reality architecture can help bring various teammates together virtually. It can also help view different parts of the project as they are completed in real-time. That's not all. Some AR software allows users to create wireframe models and augment dimensions, building elements, and more. This way, the final project looks just as the client envisioned it.
  • Underground construction: Thanks to augmented reality architecture, professionals can visualize the space and plan their construction projects underground.
  • Training: AR makes training immersive and provides new hires, whether builders, engineers, or architects, enough information and context to carry out their jobs well.
  • Inspection: To make inspections easier, AR allows users to add detailed annotations to BIM models. They also allow for peeling away different layers of the model, checking different viewing angles, textures, and other design elements. This ensures that the delivered project meets client expectations.
  • Facility operation and maintenance: Once the project's construction is complete, AR helps managers prolong a building's life by giving them real-time insights into the maintenance status.
  • Interior design: If architects collaborate with interior designers, they will need to arrive at a consensus before delivering the final project. With AR technology, designers can arrange furniture, try various layouts, and build a project that aligns with their client’s vision.
  • Organization of the construction site: With accessible AR tech, workers on the construction site can easily locate walkways, exit ways and access points. Managers can in turn plan movement and barrier control and improve construction efficiency.
  • Landscape design: The landscaping around a project matters just as much as the architecture and build of a project. AR helps users superimpose their BIM model onto different landscaping designs, making it easier to choose the right one.

With the global construction industry market expected to reach USD 17,247.96 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 7.3%, one can safely assume that the sector is poised for growth. Augmented reality architecture can help architecture, construction and engineering companies streamline processes to meet this demand.

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